Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Ekalavya - The Nishada Prince


The story of Ekalavya occurs in [Maha:1.134]. He was the son of Hiranyadhanus, the King of the Nishadas (a low caste tribe). He wanted to become a great warrior. When he heard that the great teacher Drona had established his hermitage on the outskirts of Hastinapura, and was imparting the knowledge of arms to the Kuru princes among many others, he felt that his best chance was to enroll as a disciple there.

He approached Drona, fell at his feet and requested the Guru to accept him as a disciple. However, Drona was not willing to do this, for he wanted to maintain the exclusivity of his school. Besides, there were practical difficulties in instructing a lower caste pupil side by side with the great princes of the land. He said, "I cannot enroll you as a student here, for this school is only for the nobility. However, I am impressed by your desire to excel. I accept you as my spiritual disciple. Think of me when you practice with your weapons, and you shall be a great warrior!"

Accordingly, the Nishada prince created a clay image of Drona in the forest. Every day, he worshiped the feet of this statue and practiced diligently. Years rolled by. He had become a master archer by his constant practice.

One day, the Kuru princes came to this forest to hunt. They had brought their dogs along with them. One of these overzealous dogs, ran into the forest, barking at the top of its voice. When Ekalavya heard this dog, it disturbed his concentration. Without even looking at it, he short seven arrows one after the other, aiming by the sound of the bark. The dog's mouth was sewn shut by these seven arrows, all of whom found their mark.

When the Kuru princes saw the dog, they wondered at the skill of the unknown archer who had accomplished this feat of marksmanship. Arjuna, who was the best archer among them, was smitten with jealousy. He approached Ekalavya and enquired who he was. Ekalavya said, "I am Ekalavya, son of the Nishada King Hiranyadhanus, and a spiritual disciple of the great Dronacharya."

Arjuna went to Drona and said, "Sire, you had promised me that you would make me the greatest archer of all time. How is that your disciple Ekalavya, the Nishada prince is greater than me?"

Drona was fonder of Arjuna than his own son Ashwatthama. He went to the forest where Ekalavya was practicing. He said to the prince, "Ekalavya, you have proved to be a worthy disciple of me! But there is the question of your fee."

Ekalavya prostrated himself before the Guru and said, "Master, All I have learnt is through your grace. Name your fee, and it shall be yours."

Cruelly, Drona asked for his right-thumb as the fee! The Nishada prince did not hesitate for a moment, he picked up his sword, cut his right thumb off and offered it to Drona. He continued to practice just as hard after this incident, but was never able to regain his previous skill with the bow. He knew that Arjuna was responsible for his plight, so he became his enemy. Much later, during the great war at Kurukshetra, he fought on the side of the Kauravas.

Last Modified At: Tue Oct 19 20:42:55 2004